Audit Finds Accessibility Issues on Covered California Website
Covered California's website is not fully accessible to residents with disabilities, impeding their attempts to purchase health coverage through the state exchange, according to a new state audit, U-T San Diego reports.
Details of Audit
In addition to Covered California, the audit reviewed the websites for:
- California Community Colleges;
- The California Department of Human Resources; and
- The state Franchise Tax Board.
State Auditor Elaine Howle found a "lack of regular accessibility testing at most of these departments."
In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and state lawmakers, Howle wrote, "Although the violations of Web accessibility standards ranged in severity, some of them are so severe that elements of the departments' websites were completely inaccessible to users with disabilities while other violations may prevent persons with disabilities from completing tasks necessary to access certain online services" (Greenhut, U-T San Diego, 6/8).
Covered California Findings
Of the four departments included in the audit, Covered California's website had the most violations of Web accessibility standards. The audit reviewed 57 pages of the exchange's site and found:
- 55 pages with distinct accessibility violations; and
- Seven pages with common accessibility violations.
Overall, the audit found more than 300 critical accessibility violations on the site that made certain content "completely inaccessible to users."
For example, the audit found that individuals with motor disabilities who are unable to use a mouse to navigate the Internet would be unable to complete an application on Covered California's website using a keyboard.
While Covered California tested for accessibility before launching its website, the audit found that the exchange failed to perform regular, automatic tests of the accessibility of later updates to the site.
In addition, while no accessibility complaints have been filed for Covered California's site since June 2013, the audit found that the exchange did not include on its site all of the contact information for complaints that is recommended by state policy. According to the audit, "When departments do not provide multiple forms of contact information, the risk increases that users will be unable to complain about Web accessibility problems they may encounter so that departments can fix those issues."
In the audit, Howle recommends that the California Legislature:
- Amend state law to require all departments to conform to accessibility standards;
- Make the state Department of Technology responsible for training other state departments on Web accessibility;
- Require government entities to offer Web accessibility training every three years for employees who work on developing or procuring websites or other Web-based services; and
- Require government entities to report annually to the state Department of Technology on their Web accessibility testing and efforts to resolve identified problems.
In addition, Howle suggests that each of the four departments by Dec. 1 should:
- Correct accessibility problems found in the audit; and
- Create a plan to determine whether the identified accessibility issues exist on other parts of their website not included in the audit.
The audit specifically recommends that Covered California:
- Develop and implement written accessibility testing methods for website updates;
- Include on the site all contact details called for under state policy for reporting an accessibility problem; and
- Regularly review accessibility complaints and address problems in a timely manner.
In a response to the audit, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee wrote that the exchange is "committed to maximizing website accessibility for all California consumers, including those with disabilities."
Lee said the exchange has "already remediated the incidents related to the [Covered California] website" and is working to fix accessibility issues with the software that determines eligibility for premium subsidies and Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program (California State Auditor report, June 2015).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.